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Glenn O’Brien, writer and ‘TV Party’ host, RIP

O'Brien with Fab 5 Freddy on 'TV Party'
O’Brien with Fab 5 Freddy on ‘TV Party’

Glenn O’Brien, writer, editor and host of storied late ’70s / early ’80s cable access show TV Party, has died at age 70 after a prolonged illness. He was a member of Warhol’s factory and an editor at Interview in 1970, became Rolling Stone’s NYC bureau chief in ‘1972, worked at High Times, and helped found Spin magazine in 1985. He also edited Madonna’s infamous 1992 book Sex, and was a consultant at Island Records. It was the cable access show TV Party, which he started with Blondie guitarist Chris Stein, that he is best-known in certain circles, documenting the downtown NYC punk, new wave and art scenes. From Artnews:

“Instead of everybody going to a club, they would show up at this TV studio,” said Chris Stein, the Blondie guitarist who cofounded the show, in 2015. TV Party was broadcast live on Tuesday mornings at 12:30 a.m. from 1978 to 1982 in a small studio anyone could rent for $60 an hour to air their own public-access programming.

“The show ran on Channel D and Channel J, and was quite popular with the kids,” O’Brien said in 2014. “We lucked into following the Robin Byrd Show for a while, and so inherited an audience of horny guys. We also got a big high school following thanks to smoking a bunch of pot and talking shit.”

One episode opens with O’Brien rolling a joint with virtuosic skill while blindfolded. Later on, the fashion photographer Steven Meisel gives a makeover to a girl he met in a nearby bar before the musician Fab Five Freddie starts taking phone calls from viewers. Guests over the years included the artists Jean-Michel Basquiat, Chris Burden, and Robert Mapplethorpe, and the musicians David Byrne, Mick Jones, and Iggy Pop. Debbie Harry once stopped by to bounce around on a pogo stick.

Glenn, you’ll be missed. Rest in peace.

Vice made a documentary on TV party a few years ago and you can watch that, and a few other episodes of the show, below.

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